IRVINE — For a second straight start, Matt Summers stumped occupants of one dugout at Anteater Ballpark. But in contrast to his season debut, in which poor control prompted a mystified coaching staff to issue the UC Irvine pitcher an early hook, it was visiting Southern hitters that he bamboozled in eight dominant innings of the Anteaters' 7-1 baseball triumph.
Summers, who walked four and hit three batters in 2 1/3 innings Feb. 18 against Nevada, while giving up no hits and just one earned run, consistently locked up batters and enticed more than two-dozen scouts on hand Friday.
The powerfully built junior right-hander struck out a career-high nine, walked one and surrendered only two hits and one earned run to help the 'Eaters improve to 5-0 in the opener of a three-game MLB Urban Invitational.
Six of his strikeouts were looking, as he faced just three more than the minimum. Summers threw 69 of his 94 pitches for strikes, including 21 first-pitch strikes. His snapping slider had late, stark movement, producing most of the called third strikes. He had six one-two-three innings against a Southern squad that had averaged 10 runs and nearly 12 hits coming in.
He gave up a single in the fourth and another in the eighth, when he also hit a batter to help the Jaguars (3-2) avert the shutout.
Summers, who was 2-2 with an 8.51 earned-run average in 21 appearances spanning 30 2/3 innings last season, has now yielded just two hits in 10 1/3 innings as a junior. His ERA is now 1.69.
"I was dumbfounded last week," UCI Coach Mike Gillespie said of Summers' season debut. "I just couldn't believe that [performance] and I thought, 'Oh man, what are we going to get here?'
But he was very, very impressive [Friday]. I think the pro [scouts] walked away from here last week [grousing]. But the [scouts] who were here today, saw him like he is, or like he could be."
UCI catcher Ronnie Shaeffer said Summers was more relaxed than last week.
"Standing behind the mound with him during the national anthem [before the season opener], you could see in his eyes that he was fired up … maybe a little too much," Shaeffer said. "But today, he was a little calmer. When he's on, it's always a lot of fun to catch him. He had all three pitches working and his fastball [in the 90- to 93-mph range] had movement. It made it tough on [the hitters] that's for sure. And it made it easy on me."
Summers, a former two-way player who is pitching exclusively this season, was still beaming moments after freshman Phil Ferragamo struck out two in a scoreless ninth to complete the combined two-hitter.
"That was a blast," Summers said. "I've never thrown eight innings before, so it was just a whole new experience and I had a lot of fun with it. I wanted to show what I can really do."
The UCI offense continued to show its prowess, lashing 12 hits that included four doubles.
Senior shortstop D.J. Crumlich went three for five and drove in one run, while junior first baseman Jordan Fox (one RBI) and Shaeffer had two hits apiece.
Junior center fielder Christian Ramirez doubled and drove in two runs, while senior right fielder Sean Madigan walked twice, scored two runs and collected half of the hosts' four stolen bases.
UCI is averaging 10.6 runs and 13.8 hits per game. Its staff ERA is now 2.18.
"Eight of our nine guys figured in the scoring [either scoring or driving in a run]," said Gillespie, who expects Saturday's 1 p.m. game with Bethune-Cookman at the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton, to be rained out.
"We'll miss out on a lot if we don't get it in," Gillespie said. "Bethune-Cookman has won its conference five straight years, been in the [NCAA regionals] 10 of the last 11 years and its catcher [Peter O'Brien] is a future first-round draft pick who is a candidate for the Golden Spikes Award."
UCI is scheduled to play host to Grambling State on Sunday at 1 p.m.
UC Irvine 7, Southern 1
SCORE BY INNINGS
SU 000 000 010 – 1 2 0
UCI 011 014 00x – 7 12 0
Hall, Rochelle (6) and Ourso; Summers, Ferragamo (9) and Shaeffer. W – Summers, 1-0. L – Hall, 0-2. 2B – Leyland (UCI), Hillman (UCI), Ramirez (UCI), Reyes (UCI).